On Thursday April 7th, nine former Notre Dame football players will hold their pro day workouts in South Bend.
This year’s class has really flown under the radar and has considerably less buzz about it in comparison to last year with scouts coming to see Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate, but there is a decent amount of talent ready to show their stuff this year too.
Here’s a look at each of the nine players participating and preparing to play football at the next level.
The lone “star” of the group, Rudolph is projected to be the first tight end off the board in the draft, although not necessarily a first round pick.
It seems like just yesterday that Rudolph arrived on campus as a 6’6” man-beast ready to step on to the field and become a productive tight end, but he leaves a year early for the greener pastures of the NFL.
I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that Rudolph won’t be a solid pro, as long as he can stay healthy. If he can improve on his blocking he has All-Pro potential but he’s probably not going to step right into the NFL and be a top 10 tight end right away.
In this era of football just about every NFL team could use a player like Rudolph, but I do think his lack of speed might hold him back a little bit and cause some problems, especially if he’s put on a team that doesn’t have many other receiving threats.
However, if Rudolph were to end up on a team like Atlanta or Indianapolis, he should be able to grow into a great pro in a few years.
Here is a really interesting case and a career that many Irish fans are going to pay attention to in the coming months.
As it stands right now, Allen looks to be either a late-round pick or possibly undrafted. But someone has to sign him before the 2011 season, or at the very least, he should end up on a roster within a year or two.
Sometimes you can never be sure how important playing at the next level is for an athlete, particularly for a Notre Dame athlete who has more post-college options than your average football player, but Allen is such a well-rounded back that someone has to sign him and see what he can do for a year or two.
I think it’s a long shot that Allen ever becomes an NFL starter or even a steady backup, but there’s still a lot to like about him. His speed isn’t elite, there will be injury concerns (if his hips and groins aren’t healed or if there’s permanent damage there, just forget about a career in the NFL), and he seemed to lack the killer instinct, but I wouldn’t count Allen out just yet.
Here’s another career many Notre Dame fans are eager to follow, but like Allen his chances of playing in the NFL are pretty slim right now.
From a talent standpoint I don’t think Hughes is near the top of the players working out on Thursday and that would seem to suggest he’s probably not going to play at the next level; however, he’s probably the one player who could seriously boost his resume with an outstanding pro day.
That all depends upon if Hughes has totally embraced his role as a power runner, because the NFL doesn’t want a back creeping into linebacker weight territory that tip toes around at the line of scrimmage. If he can come in great shape, run a fantastic 40-yard dash for his size and show off his quick feet, Hughes might end up signing a contract with someone and getting a shot even if he’s not drafted.
Kamara has size and a good set of hands going for him, but I don’t know what else there is to his game that NFL scouts are going to drool over.
It’d be great to see him go to the next level, but I think out of all the players at this pro day he’s the least likely to land a job in the NFL.
There is some skill to his game, but the speed is not even close to NFL standards and Kamara would have to seriously polish his game and improve tremendously to even be considered for a spot in the League.
After a great freshman season, he kind of just faded away throughout his career and left the team before the Sun Bowl last year. There are just too many question marks on and off the field right now to consider Kamara a legitimate pro prospect.
My initial reaction is to say that Neal won’t be playing in the NFL, but sometimes it’s a lot harder to predict what is going to happen with defenders at the next level.
There are some tools to work with here, but probably nothing that NFL scouts are going to say they absolutely need.
Neal played on the outside in college and might be a better fit in the middle as a pro, but it’s just too big of a leap of faith to think that he’ll hold down a roster spot in the NFL. I get the sense Neal could sign on a practice squad somewhere and kick around the league for a while before finally hanging up his cleats.
Smith is kind of in the same boat as Neal, but he has a little bit better of a pedigree and skill set that might allow him to get drafted.
I wouldn’t put any money that he’ll hear his name called at any point in the draft, but it shouldn’t be that surprising if it is. A lot of different scouts and draft gurus seem pretty high on Smith, and perhaps a lot higher than most Notre Dame fans would be, so a late-round selection is a possibility.
According to a fellow teammate, Brian Smith is in excellent shape so that should help his chances. He showed tiny flashes of brilliance throughout his career and he possesses a decent skill-set. Perhaps he’ll continue his strong play from the end of 2010 and carry that into a decent NFL career?
Not too belittle his accomplishments as a law student or talent as a football player, but I would wonder how serious Stewart is about playing in the NFL.
In interviews he did seem like he wanted to try the NFL out, but I think there’s going to be a lot of trepidation from the scouts in attendance. Sometimes the League isn’t for everyone and Stewart kind of seems like that type of person to me.
Nevertheless, he is a large human being and was a pretty decent run blocker in college. I would imagine if there are any hopes for a career as a professional he will have to come in to this workout in the best shape of his life and dazzle some people with his athleticism and foot work.
He certainly won’t be picked in the first three or four rounds, but there is some potential for a late-round selection, and a lot of that might have to do with his desire to really focus 100 percent on football. If he has made that point clear in interviews with some teams, then Stewart could have himself a nice little career.
Like many of the players participating in this pro day in South Bend, Walls is floating in the late-round/undrafted territory, but he has a lot more upside than most of the other Irish athletes.
Like Brian Smith, Walls impressed as a freshman and then faltered with the rest of the defense from 2008 to 2009, but came back with a solid (if not spectacular) senior season. He has a skill set and talent level to suggest he could make an NFL roster and contribute sometime down the road, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Walls was never a shut down corner in college and usually it’s hard for someone who doesn’t dominate then to come in and play in the NFL, yet Walls is smart and added toughness to his game last season. I like his odds to be a very late-round selection.
Behind Kyle Rudolph, who is far and away the top draft choice the Irish have to offer, stands Ian Williams as a fierce defensive tackle.
Likely a mid-round pick, Williams could be one of the big surprises league-wide as a rookie in 2011 if he falls into the right position on the right team. He’s probably not an All-Pro talent, but the potential is certainly there for him to carve out a nice long career in the NFL.
Maybe he won’t garner a lot of attention nationally, but whichever team ends up taking him in the draft is certain to end up very happy with their choice. Williams is big and strong, and might bring a lot of versatility some pro teams crave.
This collection of nine players clearly will not blow any scouts away, but there is a lot more talent here than most people will give credit for.
Besides Rudolph and Williams, the rest of the bunch are really borderline draftees, but if history tells us anything, it’s usually a good idea to take a chance on a Notre Dame player in the late rounds. You’re not paying very much for them and you’re likely to get a talented and smart player who needs a little bit more development than your average BCS player.
Hopefully the days of players not being developed properly are over in South Bend, but if I’m a scout I would definitely take a look at players like Brian Smith, Armando Allen or Darrin Walls in the later portion of the draft to solidify my roster.
From the FanTake blog: One Foot Down
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